Read Beyond the Veil Online

Authors: Pippa Dacosta

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Paranormal, #Urban, #Paranormal & Urban

Beyond the Veil



The Veil


Book #1

The Veil Series


Pippa DaCosta

2014 Pippa DaCosta

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the author.


ISBN-13: 978-1494242350

All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictions and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


Kindle Edition.

US Edition.


Chapter One

I should have known he

d be trouble as soon as he walked into my workshop, but I couldn

t have known he

d be the death of me. He wore a three-quarter length red leather coat, had platinum blond hair long enough to sweep back out of his eyes, and sported scuffed Timberland boots, but if the goose bumps shivering across my skin were anything to go by, he clearly was not as human as his appearance had me believe.

At first, I tried to ignore him, refusing to give him the satisfaction of seeing me hesitate. A quick glance at my dusty clock told me it was late, past midnight, and I

d be damned if I was going to drop everything just because he

d invited himself in. I continued to work on the sword resting on the anvil before me. I hammered out imperfections in the blade

s surface with renewed vigor, metal singing at each blow. Behind me, the coal forge roared. Rolling waves of heat branded my back. I told myself it was sweltering temperatures sprinkling perspiration across my face and back, making my scruffy tank top cling to me, but in truth, it was fear.

Picking up the unfinished sword with gloved hands, I turned and plunged the blade into the glowing coals before facing my uninvited guest. He

d given himself the tour of my cramped workshop, seeming to admire the various swords on display, some unfinished, some as close to art as I was ever going to get. Shame I couldn

t wield them as well as I could craft them.


I managed to instil some genuine irritation in my words in the hope it would disguise the anxiety building inside me. I tried to flick my hair out of my face but a few strands stubbornly clung to my sweaty cheek.


He nodded once and turned arctic-blue eyes on me before flashing what he probably thought was a knee-weakening smile.

If my
expected me to gush and swoon, he was in for a shock.

Who are you, and what the hell do you want?

It was late. I was tired. He wasn

t human. I figured I was within my rights to be blunt.

His expression tightened.


re Muse, right?

He tossed a gesture at the stuffy workshop.

I was expecting something


I hadn

t heard that nickname in years. Muse was a tag left over from dark days I didn

t wish to revisit.

Approaching me, he reached inside his coat. I caught a flicker of light slide over a handgun tucked into his waistband and tensed. An unusual motif, like entwined scorpions, adorned the grip. But he didn

t reach for the gun. He withdrew a sword and rested it on my anvil.

I want you to read this.

I tugged off my glove and skipped my fingers over the smooth surface of the blade. The metal burned cold against my insolent touch, as though the sword resented my presence. It was a wonderful piece of workmanship. The ripple - or
- below the surface of the carbon-steel blade hinted at Japanese origins, and the tempered edge was sharp enough to slice through flesh with little effort. An intricate hand-forged guard and leather-wrapped hilt betrayed the sword as functional but with a flair for the dramatic, and yet it was clearly a weapon meant for combat, not ceremony.

A thin snap of power danced up my fingers, and with a small hiss, I snatched my hand back. This sword would not easily give up its secrets.


s in it for me?

What do you want?

Now there was a loaded question. I didn

t know what or who he was, and had no idea how much he could afford or what the stakes involved.

It depends on what I

m going to find. If we

re talking murder, then I want danger money. If it

s just a lovers

tiff you

re interested in, a few hundred should do it. I

m assuming you want recent information. If you need me to go back more than five years, it

ll be another two hundred.

Or I could walk out of here now and tell the world where you are. I know there are a few unsavoury characters from your checkered past who

d be very grateful for the heads-up on your whereabouts.

His smooth voice and slight smile belied the threat in his words.

I smiled tightly, my first smile since his arrival.

Now, there, you see? We were having a civilized conversation, and you just had to go and spoil it by threatening me.

Why don

t you just read the blade, and I can leave you to get on with your
he cast a glance about him,

And now he

d insulted me.


m not telling you anything until you give me more to go on.

Who did he think he was talking to? Some back alley half-human woman who would fall over her own feet to do his bidding? He might know my name, but he obviously didn

t know me.

He blinked, before turning back on the charm, as if I could be bought by a handsome face.


re right. I

m sorry. A few hundred, was it?

He dug deep into his coat pocket and pulled out a wad of cash. Without counting it, he tossed it onto the anvil.

That should cover it.

I tugged my glove back on, pinching the heatproof fabric between each finger.

I think you should leave.

He narrowed his eyes.

Just read the sword, Muse.

I didn

t have time to humor assholes, especially those of the demon persuasion.

Get out.

He pulled his distinctive gun on me, finger resting firmly on the trigger, aim rigid.

You will do this for me.

It wasn

t an order. It was fact

at least as far as he was concerned.

Go back to hell,

I sneered, before reaching around and snatching the blade from the forge, flinging both the half-finished sword and some hot coals at him. He recoiled, cursing as the embers bounced off his coat. I dashed for the doors. My hand was on the handle, when he slammed into me, knocking the breath from my lungs.

He thrust the gun under my chin, freezing me rigid.

Why do you have to be so difficult?

I really didn

t want this to escalate. Bad shit happens when
comes out to play. The darkness slumbering at my core began to unfurl, opening like the petals of a flower, but its intent was far from delicate. The trickling touch of power spilled into my muscles. Heat flooded through my body. The warmth of my element embraced me, threading itself through every part of me, the lure of chaos undeniable.

He abruptly released me and took a few steps back, gun up. His narrow glare measured me.

I pressed my back against the workshop door. Power dripped from my fingertips. I couldn

t see it

the human part of me was blind to the energy

but he could. His arctic eyes blazed with a promise of conflict.

He appeared to consider his next move and then, quite unexpectedly, laughed and lowered the gun, tucking it back into the holster inside his coat.


re right. This isn

t worth it.

With his hands up, as if in surrender, he turned and retrieved the sword in question before weaving his way back around workbenches toward me.


ll leave you in peace.


His sudden change in mood completely disarmed me.

Step aside. I

m leaving.

Surprised by his abrupt surrender, I did as he asked and watched him slide the door open and step out into the night. A sharp winter breeze invaded the heat of my workshop, rousing me from my muddled stupor. Confused and somewhat disappointed, I followed him out into the alley. The raw energy he

d aroused began to fizzle out. Its departure left me with a sickly chill and bitter sense of loss.

He climbed into the driver

s side of an old Dodge Charger with rust-bruised red paint. I had no idea who he was, where he

d come from, how he

d found me, or what lay hidden in that damn sword. And he was leaving. That couldn

t be right. Didn

t I deserve some sort of explanation?


I ventured further into the street.

Headlights bathed me in twin beams, forcing me to shield my eyes. He gunned the engine, jammed the box into reverse, and swung the car backward into a J-turn before speeding off, fat tires squealing on wet asphalt.

I stood in the street, hand on hip, head tilted to one side and breathed the crisp night air, clearing my lungs of forge-dust. Then the shockwave hit me. The explosion lashed across my back. I must have briefly lost consciousness, but the furious pain in my back quickly summoned me from the depths. A whine drilled into my skull. Alarms sounded from the industrial units around me.

I turned my head toward the heat, grit digging into my cheek as I peered into the smoke bellowing from the hollow gap between two buildings.

My workshop had gone and with it, my attempt at a normal life.

Chapter Two

I sat in the reception area of Phoenix Developments, biting at the quick of a nail until it bled. The tiny jab of pain paled in comparison to the abrasive grate from the dozens of cuts that riddled my back. Bruised, battered, but alive, I

d spent the night trying to salvage what scraps of work I could find in the remains of my workshop. A fruitless task.

As I sat in the waiting area, the world around me continued as normal. The working day had begun. I felt numb. The chrome-plated arms of the leather chairs glinted under halogen lights. The receptionist occasionally glanced my way over rimless glasses, her lips so thin they were barely there at all.

She didn

t trust me. I couldn

t blame her. Despite having showered, I could still smell the smoke in my hair. I also wore knee-high boots over skinny jeans, something that clearly didn

t compliment the pinstripe suits and slicked-back hair of the

city boys

milling back and forth through the glass doors.

It was nine a.m. Not an hour before, I

d been slumped in the back of an ambulance while the police rattled off their box-ticking questions. Were there any witnesses? Did I have any idea what had caused the explosion? Were there any hazardous materials on site? I told them what they wanted to hear, neglecting to mention my less-than-human visitor. Once you mention demons, the authorities get twitchy. I

d wanted to blame my uninvited guest, but until I knew what

or who

I was dealing with, I couldn

t risk the repercussions.

As things stood, I didn

t know what had caused the explosion, but I doubted Mr. Asshole

s timing had been a coincidence. It had been years since I

d heard the name Muse

even longer since I

d spoken with someone less than human. He

d shown up, thrown money around, made demands, then left rather sharply. I found myself face down in the road seconds later.

The receptionist

s phone buzzed. She snatched at the receiver and listened for a few seconds before thanking her caller. She looked at me.

Charlie Henderson, was it?

Her voice was as tight as her beanpole frame.

I stood, brushed down my top, and approached her glass-topped desk.



m sorry, but Mister Vitalis is in a meeting all morning.

I attempted to smile sweetly, but it

s not easy when you

ve just survived an explosion that

s ruined five years of hard work. I

d lost more in that blast than I cared to think about.


ll want to see me.


s in a meeting.

Yes. I know. You just told me that.

I tapped my fingernails on the glass desk.

Okay, look. Tell him it

s Muse.

She narrowed her pin-sharp glare.


This woman took her job far too seriously.

Yes. It

s a personal thing. Just tell him... please.

She gave me one long look. I smiled as best as I could, and she finally picked up the phone. It wouldn

t have surprised me if she

d jabbed a security button and summoned the heavies to escort me from the premises.

Yes. I

m sorry about this, Mister Vitalis. Now she says she

s called Muse. Yes...yes... Well...

She looked closely at me, the glare of her beady eyes drilling right through me.

Yes that looks like her. Very well. I

ll send her up.

She hung up.

Mister Vitalis will see you in his office in ten minutes.

Victory. I beamed.

Thank you.

And hurried to the elevator.


A wall of windows framed a spectacular view of the city. Sunlight glinted off the adjacent high-rises. His office hadn

t changed in the several years since my last visit. Polished glass, brushed aluminum and supple leather all vied for attention, as if each style attempted to outdo the others. At one end of the room a large desk housed a single Mac computer, at the other, black leather couches huddled around a glass coffee table. Not a single photograph adorned the walls

no strategically placed pot-plant, no personal touches whatsoever. The office was austere. Not unlike its owner.

The glass doors hissed open, and Akil Vitalis strode in. My skin prickled, human senses alerting me to danger. How right they were.

His dark eyes briefly checked me before he made sure the door was properly closed behind him. Then he faced me, hands clasped behind his back, face impassive.

My heart hammered a little faster, nerves fluttering in my chest, shortening my breaths. Time seemed to drag, and I began to worry. We hadn

t parted on the best of terms, and I hadn

t spoken a single word to him in five years.


s smile, when it finally came, allowed me to breathe again.

You look good, Muse.

He crossed to a cabinet. From inside, he collected a crystal decanter and two glasses. Without asking if I wanted a drink, he placed them on the coffee table and poured two fingers of whisky in each.

I swallowed my nerves and approached the back of the nearest couch, digging my fingers into the cushion to hide my trembling hands.

You too.

And he did. He wore a gunmetal gray suit, jacket unbuttoned with no tie. A few of his shirt buttons were undone, revealing the natural bronze of his skin. He appeared to be in his late twenties or early thirties. Nobody would guess an immortal being resided in that suave exterior.


s the blacksmithing business going?

His fingers lightly picked up his glass.

You knew?

I wasn

t surprised, not really. Nobody escapes Akil.

He took a generous drink and smiled but didn

t reply. He didn

t need to.

So tell me; to what do I owe this pleasure?

He shrugged off his jacket.

As he offered me the glass of whisky, I considered where to
start. I owed Akil everything. He

d been my teacher, my guardian, but more than that, he

d saved me. Without his intervention, I

d be dead in a ditch somewhere. Another half-blood consigned to an early grave. And yet I couldn

t trust him, not completely. He, like most of the full-blooded demons I

d known, had his own motives.

I had a visitor last night, and I wondered if you might know him.


Akil arched an eyebrow and leaned back against the couch.

I take it your visitor wasn

t human?

I don

t know what he was,

I admitted, taking a sip of the whisky. The alcohol rolled across my tongue, smooth, mature, and no doubt as costly as the loan I was still paying off on my workshop. I took another sip, needing the reassuring warmth.

Akil saw my hand shake but was polite enough to pretend he hadn



er... He wanted me to read a blade. I would have, had he not been so rude about it. Either he was rusty at playing human, or he

s just naturally an arrogant
I stopped before my anger got the better of me.

Anyway, we had a little t
te and then he left. Ten seconds later, my workshop exploded, almost taking me with it.

The warmth of the whisky soothed my rattling nerves as the shock of my close call really hit home.

The kindness in Akil

s eyes hardened.

What did he look like?

Tall. Smug. A thing for red leather. But it was the sword that was interesting.

I finished my whisky and let Akil refill my glass.

It was hand crafted.

I recalled the tease of power I

d felt from the blade. I rubbed my fingertips together, the ghost of its touch like pins and needles beneath my skin.

Similar to a Japanese katana but it had an elaborate guard. It

s unique.

Did you read it?

He returned to my side.


I flicked Akil a smile as I took my refreshed drink.

You know, the more I think about it, the more I wonder why he came to me. He asked me what payment I wanted for reading the sword. I told him, but he threatened me instead of just giving me the money. Why would he do that?

He wasn

t there for the sword.

I was beginning to realize the same.

He was testing me. I thought it was odd at the time. He deliberately pissed me off to get a reaction.

I frowned.



s obvious.


s smile was one I recognized well. He was waiting for me to catch up.

It wasn

t about the sword. You weren

t meant to leave that workshop. He wanted you dead.

But that didn

t make sense.

He had plenty of easier chances.

A gunshot to the head would have done it.

Akil inhaled, leaning back and rolling his shoulders.

When have you known our kind to do anything the easy way? If he

s any kind of demon at all, he

s not going to execute you without having his fun. It makes perfect sense to me. He went there to kill you, but he wanted to get his kicks. Maybe he

d heard of you. Did he call you by name?

Muse? Yeah.

Then he knows who you are. Someone hired him.


s words rang true. How else would Mr. A have known my demon name? Only those from my past knew I

d been given the name Muse by my former owner as a cruel joke.


I hissed.


Akil licked his lips.

You should stay with me.

Hell, no. I immediately looked away, smiling awkwardly. I felt his gaze on me, roaming where it shouldn

t. This was not why I was here. I couldn

t do this, not again. I owed Akil everything, but I was just a half-blood demon. His world had nearly killed me before. I couldn

t go back to that.


He sounded apologetic until I saw his smile.

I pushed away from the couch

away from him.

You know what, don

t call me that.

I tried to make it sound like an order, but the nervous tremble in my voice undermined my intentions, reducing the words to a request.

I left for a reason, and I

m not coming back.

You think your assassin won

t try again?


ll take my chances.

He winced a little, his smile twisting into something darker.

How long do you think you

ll survive out there, Charlie? You

ve got power but not nearly enough to stop them all.

I did it before. Five years, Akil. I had five years without you

without them.

It had felt good. The freedom. The life. The normality of it all. I paid bills. I drank coffee. I even had a cat. Life. It was real. A tangible dream, one I

d worked hard to hold on to. He wasn

t going to take it from me, and neither was Mr. A. I was sick of running because they deemed me some half-baked mistake, tired of fighting those who thought me an abomination.


s out there, you know,

Akil said.

When I looked at Akil, watched him walk slowly toward me, I knew he wasn

t talking about the assassin. My heart sank, and my dream of normality slipped away. I lifted the glass to my lips and finished off the potent whisky, wincing as it burned a path down my throat.

Akil stood a little too close. The proximity of him stole my breath away. A trickling current of power stirred within me, my demon half recognizing him as her savior. He tipped my chin up, perhaps sensing my reluctant defeat and brushed the back of his fingers down my face.

Your brother sent that assassin. You know he did. Stop fooling yourself. It was never going to last. Your workshop is gone. Don

t let him take your life as well.

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